"The best of the vocal soloists was British baritone David Wilson-Johnson, a superb singing actor whose sardonic and insinuating, yet always elegantly sung Mephistopheles worked his devilish wiles"
The Chicago Times
"The veteran David Wilson-Johnson is in splendid form"
The Sunday Times
"David Wilson-Johnson was a powerful presence"
"David Wilson-Johnson seldom gives a less than admirable performance and he is excellent here as Abner"
International Record Review
David Wilson-Johnson has been a regular guest of the major opera houses, orchestras and festivals worldwide under conductors including Boulez, Brüggen, Dutoit, Giulini, Harnoncourt, Mackerras, Previn, Rattle and Rozhdestvensky.
He sang for 21 years with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, as well as in Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, ENO, Geneva, Lyon, Madrid, Monte-Carlo, New York, Paris, Salzburg, Tanglewood and Turin. His major roles included King Priam (Tippett), Merlin (Albeniz), Oedipe (Enescu) and St. Francois (Messiaen).
Recent and future highlights include Mahler’s Eighth Symphony with the Berlin Philharmonic under Rattle and the Beijing Festival Orchestra under Dutoit, Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust with Dutoit in Sydney, Chicago and Philadelphia, Brahms’s Requiem with Previn in London, Oslo, Pittsburgh and NHK Tokyo, Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex also with Dutoit in Carnegie Hall and throughout Switzerland, and Haydn’s Creation, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Japan with Brüggen, Schoenberg’s A Survivor from Warsaw with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen at the BBC Proms, and Ravel’s L’heure Espagnole with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. Recent collaborations with the BBCSO have included Ravel’s L’heure espagnole, Rachmaninov’s The Bells and Tippett’s A Midsummer Marriage (BBC Proms).
He works regularly with Robert King and the King’s Consort with future concerts in Budapest, Bucharest, Versailles, Marseille, Leipzig Gewandhaus (for the first performance of Mendelssohn’s Israel in Egypt), and Ferrandou in the Dordogne valley where he has lived and directed a summer school for singers for the last thirty years.
This biography is for information only and should not be reproduced.
Schoenberg A Survivor from Warsaw (Narrator)
Philharmonia Orchestra / Esa-Pekka Salonen, BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall (August 2016)
Extremely impressive he was too, clearly enunciating in both English and German the horrors endured by this survivor, and his confusion over his escape to the sewers. Particularly chilling was the lightness with which he delivered the line “Whereupon the sergeant ordered to do away with us“.
Par Penny Homer, bachtrack.com
In London the veteran British baritone [David Wilson-Johnson] brought professional finesse and human passion to speech whose linear contour and pitch are predetermined in the notation.
David Gutman, classicalsource.com
The experienced David Wilson-Johnson was superb in his Sprechgesang delivery…the sheer speed of the Feldwebel’s (German) commands was miraculously done as was the speaker’s powerful shout of “Sh’ma Yisroel” that immediately precedes the choral finale.
Colin Clarke, Seen and Heard International
Vivaldi La Senna festeggiante (La Senna)
The King’s Consort, Wigmore Hall, London (May 2016)
But it was David Wilson-Johnson who had the lion’s share of the virtuosity to negotiate. The baritone was secure in the more challenging numbers such as ‘L’alta lor gloria immortale’, with its racing vocal line, and the pitching in La Senna’s first aria, ‘Qui nel profondo’ was very focused as Wilson-Johnson negotiated the nimble lines in unison with the accompaniment.
Claire Seymour, Opera Today
The King’s Consort played magnificently, while the voice of…David Wilson-Johnson (The Seine) fitted the piece very well.
Sam Smith, musicomh.com
Tippett A Child of Our Time
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Leeds Town Hall (March 2016)
In the section “A Spiritual of Anger”, this effect was used for a most impressive musical highlight when, with great articulation and emphasis, bass David Wilson-Johnson intonated the spiritual “Go down, Moses” in turns with the choir whispering “let my people go”.
Julia Zupancic, bachtrack.com
Ravel L’heure Espagnole / L’Enfant et les sortileges
l’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande / Charles Dutoit, Victoria Hall, Geneva (October 2015)
It was with the infatuated Don Inigo of David Wilson-Johnson that we were able to appreciate a superb and free voice, a sense of drama and above all perfect French declamation. His voice, without sounding forced, blended perfectly with the defiance of Ravel’s orchestra… [In L’Enfant] David Wilson-Johnson gave himself whole heartedly to the tomcat helped by the growling of the violas and the cellos.
Thomas Muller, bachtrack.com
Ravel L’heure Espagnole (Don Iñigo Gomez)
Boston Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Hall (March 2016)
The opera was also uniformly well-cast, with David Wilson-Johnson, full of comic instincts, as Don Inigo.
Jeremy Eichler, The Boston Globe
Baritone David Wilson-Johnson, the only BSO non-debutante in the cast, sang with clear tone and lucid diction as the old banker Don Inigo, catching the opera buffa spirit with a characterization that combined pomposity with an endearing vulnerability.
David Wright, Boston Classical Review
David Wilson-Johnson, bass-baritone, perfectly conveyed the lyric pomposity of Don Inigo Gomez, the “seigneur puissant”.
Mark DeVoto, The Boston Musical Intelligencer
Berlioz Roméo et Juliette (Friar Laurence), Seattle Symphony Orchestra / Ludovic Morlot
Benaroya Hall, Seattle (May 2015)
The longest vocal solos by far are given to Friar Laurence, the production’s voice of reason (beautifully sung by the resonant baritone David Wilson-Johnson).
Melinda Bargreen, The Seattle Times
David Wilson-Johnson, a dramatic baritone who held the audience in his grip as he sang the narrative role of Friar Laurence.
Philippa Kiraly, City Arts
Walton Belshazzar’s Feast (Narrator), BBC Philharmonic
Leeds Town Hall (May 2015)
As the narrator, baritone David Wilson-Johnson delivered a performance to remember. His recitatives were of an utmost intensity, charismatic and gripping alike.
Julia Zupancic, bachtrack.com
Beethoven Ninth Symphony / Mahler Des Knaben Wunderhorn, Royal Northern Sinfonia
The Sage, Gateshead (April 2015)
There was drama, too: just when you were beginning to worry that the soloists had failed to turn up, baritone David Wilson-Johnson burst through the doors to deliver the bold interruption of Schiller’s opening line: “O friends, not these sounds!”
Alfred Hickling, The Guardian
Players and soloists limbered up with a selection from Mahler’s Des Knabun Wunderhorn, with baritone David Wilson-Johnson getting into full character as a strutting hussar in ‘Trost in Ungluk’ and the grumpy partner in ‘Verlor’ne Muh’.
Gavin Engelbrecht, The Northern Echo
There was delightfully expressive interplay between Atherton and Wilson-Johnson.
Rob Barnes, The Journal
Foroni Cristina, Regina di Svezia (Oxenstierna), Chelsea Garden Opera
Cadogan Hall, London (November 2014)
Top marks for style and meaning, too, as always, to veteran David Wilson-Johnson as a Lord High Chancellor well attuned to the sensitivities of a better number.
David Nice, theartsdesk.com
The seemingly ageless David Wilson-Johnson was at home in the role of the Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna.
Alexander Campbell, classicalsource.com
Britten War Requiem, Three Choirs Festival
Worcester Cathedral (July 2014)
David Wilson-Johnson was more overtly expressive. Of all the principal performers he seemed the most ready to take risks. He made a strong impression from the start with his dolefully expressive delivery of ‘Bugles sang’, the words clear and the tone firm. Later he conveyed graphically the hectoring menace of ‘Be slowly lifted up’. An example of his risk-taking was the venom with which he invested the words ‘May God curse thee’: perhaps it was just a little overcooked but, if so, not by much. His contribution to ‘Strange meeting’ bespoke long experience with this role. In particular, his delivery of the fateful words, ‘I am the enemy you slew, my friend’ and the subtle interaction between the soloists at this point was memorable.
John Quinn, Seen and Heard International
The Midsummer Marriage (King Fisher), BBC Symphony / Andrew Davis
BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, London (August 2013)
David Wilson-Johnson was vivid as King Fisher, [Bella’s] blustering, overprotective father.
Hugo Shirley, The Daily Telegraph
The baritone David Wilson-Johnson gave a vibrant performance as the opera’s nominal villain, King Fisher.
George Loomis, The New York Times
David Wilson-Johnson made a sturdy King Fisher.
Richard Fairman, The Financial Times
David Wilson-Johnson gave full value as King Fisher, the wicked businessman who has a heart attack at the end of the piece to serve him right.
George Hall, The Guardian
David Wilson-Johnson stepped in at short notice as the hostile, capitalist King Fisher, a role he hadn’t sung for around a quarter of a century. His character was immediately established and he projected the text better than anyone, especially in his long, blustering solo attempting to bribe the friends of Mark and Jenifer.
Mark Pullinger, Opera Britannia
David Wilson-Johnson, standing in at a week’s notice as King Fisher, was returning to a role he'd last sung 25 years ago. You couldn't really tell, Wilson-Johnson gave a masterly performance, full of character. His King Fisher had all the bombast needed and we could hear all the words. This was true of all three singers in the character episodes (Wilson-Johnson, Ailish Tynan and Allan Clayton) and helped to establish the drama. Wilson-Johnson combines singing 20th century music with a career with period ensembles. This shows in his performance where his navigating of the actual notes was nicely accurate and thankfully lacking that element of bluster. Wilson-Johnson is a fine singing actor and his performance was a master-class in how to make character work in a space as big as the Royal Albert Hall.
Robert Hugill, Opera Today
Clearly and forcefully sung by David Wilson-Johnson, he blusters and bullies his way through the opera, inevitably moving towards his tragicomic end in Act 3.
Chris Garlick, bachtrack.com
David Wilson-Johnson was a late replacement as King Fisher, but you would never have known as he sang with remarkable authority – his tone as full and resplendent as I remember from years' ago.
Keith McDonnell, whatsonstage.com
David Wilson-Johnson, a late replacement and who must now be counted as a veteran, brought great intelligence and engaging enthusiasm to his capitalist villain.
David Gutman, classicalcourse.com
A late arrival in the cast, David Wilson-Johnson was an asset too as the puffed-up businessman King Fisher, forceful in voice and gesture.
Geoff Brown, theartsdesk.com
I Was Glad (Sacred Music of Parry and Stanford), The King’s Consort
Vivat (February 2013)
David Wilson-Johnson’s eloquent and meditative song of Simeon in the Nunc dimittis … homing in on the spirit of the music.
Peter Reed, Classical Source
St Matthew Passion (Bach), Academy of Ancient Music / Stephen Cleobury
Kings Place (January 2013)
The steady increase in the work's overall sense of dramatic tension came mostly from the soloists, a number of whom offered exceptional readings. David Wilson-Johnson’s Christus was authoritatively projected, displaying a keen awareness of Jesus's humanity.
George Hall, The Guardian
Messiah (Handel), The Sixteen / Harry Christophers
Barbican Hall, London (December 2012)
Even more intuitive was David Wilson-Johnson’s connective singing, delivered with full-on theatrical drama straight to the audience. The even, four-shades-black register of his voice was sine qua non for a grindingly sinuous ‘The people that walked in darkness’, and he seemed to carry the whole weight of Handel’s vision with a fabulously interior ‘Behold, I tell you a mystery’ and a heroic and athletic ‘The trumpet shall sound’, with an equally awesome trumpet obbligato.
Peter Reed, Classical Source
The Nightingale (Stravinsky) / L’Enfant et les sortilèges (Ravel)
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Dutoit (October 2012)
David Wilson-Johnson’s baritone voice boomed in the role as the Emperor… It was also surprising to hear the versatile Wilson-Johnson in the role of the broken clock, where his energetic singing of “ding, ding, ding” were a far cry from his commanding tone as the Emperor in The Nightingale earlier that evening.
Aaron Keebaugh, The Classical Review
David Wilson-Johnson brought stentorian majesty to the role of the Emperor… [he] demonstrated a wholly different side of himself, engagingly taking on the parts of a broken clock and an amorous cat: his Duo miaulé with a humorously stiff Diana Axentii was one of the highlights of a very memorable evening.
The Arts Fuse
I was particularly impressed with … David Wilson-Johnson as the Emperor of China.
Mark DeVoto, The Boston Musical Intelligencer
L’Heure espangole (Ravel), BBC Symphony Orchestra/Josep Pons
Barbican, London (October 2012)
David Wilson-Johnson picked his way through and sent up the pitfalls of Don Inigo’s potential for bluster and pomposity with admirable élan, on the back of the open legato and lyricism of his flexible baritone and some lightly anarchic comic timing – at which he is no slouch.
Peter Reed, classicalsource.com
The cast conveyed the wit and sauciness of the score, with its lavish homages to Spain, sex and sensuality… DavidWilson-Johnson a pompously buffo banker.
h Canning, The Sunday Times
Paulus (Mendelssohn), The King’s Consort
Gewandhaus zu Leipzig (September 2012)
With David Wilson Johnson you could not wish for a better Paulus: his clearly articulated German diction perfectly expressed the contrast between his anger at the Christians and the more tender moments of reconciliation which were hauntingly beautiful.
Anja Jaskowski, Leipziger Volkszeitung
A Village Romeo and Juliet (Delius), New London Orchestra
Queen Elizabeth Hall (September 2012)
With his vast English repertoire experience, David Wilson-Johnson was a powerful presence as the haunting Dark Fiddler.
Graham Rogers, classicalsource.com
David Wilson-Johnson’s cleverly characterised Dark Fiddler.
Hilary Finch, The Times
The Dream of Gerontius (Elgar), Sydney Symphony/Ashkenazy
CD (Live recording) ABC Classics ABC476 4297 (May 2012)
Both Lilli Paasikivi and David Wilson-Johnson…are excellent
Andrew Achenbach, Gramophone
Requiem (Fauré), Ensemble Orchestral de Paris/Rolf Beck
Hänssler Classic CD98.628 (July 2011)
[Wilson-Johnson’s] ‘Libera me’ is noble and well projected
Nigel Simeone, International Record Review
Baritone David Wilson-Johnson is in typically fine voice
Christopher Dingle, BBC Music
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 88697723172
David Wilson-Johnson seldom gives a less than admirable performance and he is excellent here as Abner, with his extensive range and coloratura skill totally up to the tough demands of ‘ah, canst thou but prove
Roger Pines, International Record review,
The Passion of Mary (H Blake),
Naxos 8 572453, August 2010
Excellent soloists – especially David Wilson-Johnson - bring the texts alive
Matthew Power, Choir & Organ
David Wilson-Johnson provides suitably stentorian delivery of the Prophet’s and Satan’s pronouncements.
Malcolm Riley, Gramophone Magazine
Romeo et Juliette (Berlioz), Tonhalle, Zürich / Charles Dutoit
Not only did David Wilson-Johnson bring a vocal strength to the part, so as to step up to the sound of the orchestra, but also the authority needed to perform such a part.
Thomas Schacher, Neue Züricher Zeitung
Elijah, (Mendelssohn), Oxford Bach Choir/Nicholas Cleobury
David Wilson-Johnson brought intelligence and feeling to his characterization of Elijah, proving a forceful presence right from the austere opening recitative. I particularly enjoyed his fiery exchanges with the prophets of Baal, and his biting sarcasm and mockery of their “mountain deities”. His fervent pleas for rain were also stirring (…). The aria It is enough, from the second half, depicting Elijah’s despair and frustration, was another highlight.
Simon Collings, Oxford Mail
Jester/Death,(Taverner,Maxwell-Davies)BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Knussen
The Stalwart David Wilson-Johnson steals his scenes as Jester (Death), as he should.
David Wilson-Johnson Opera Repertoire
Nixon in China (Chou En-Lai)
Antony and Cleopatra (Antony)
La Damnation de Faust (Mephistopheles)
Punch and Judy (Choregos/Jack Ketch)
Billy Budd (Mr Redburn)
A Village Romeo and Juliet (Dark Fiddler)
L'Elisir d'Amore (Dulcamara)
Arianna (Il consigliero et al)
Romeo et Juliette (Duke of Verona)
Le Jongleur de Notre Dame (Prior)
Eight Songs for a Mad King (King)
St Francois d'Assise (Francois)
Boris Godunov (Tchelkalov)
Cosi Fan Tutte (Alfonso)
Madama Butterfly (Yamadori)
Francesca di Rimini (Lanceotto)
L'Enfant des Sortileges
Le Coq d'Or (Polkan)
Die Glückliche Hand (Ein Mann)
The Wreckers (Laurence)
Die Fledermaus (Falke)
Le Rossignol (Emperor)
King Roger (Roger)
A Midsummer Marriage (King Fisher)
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Kothner)
Euryanthe (The King)
David Wilson-Johnson Concert Repertoire
The wound dresser
B Minor Mass
Mass in C
Mass in C
L'Enfance du Christ
Ein Deutsches Requiem
A Choral Symphony (written for DW-J)
The Diamond and the Goose (written for DW-J)
The Canterbury Pilgrims
Master Peter's Puppet Show
Shallow Brown, and other folksongs
Acis and Galatea
The Raft of the Medusa
Old Scarlett (written for DW-J)
Une Cantate de Noel
Four Songs of Don Quixote
Where the wild Things Are
Hungarian Coronation Mass
Les Espaces du sommeil
Das Klagende Lied
The Epic of Gilgamesh
The Great Journey (written for DW-J)
The Water and the Fire
Vespers of 1610 and 1640
Songs and Dances of Death
Symphony no. 3
St Luke Passion
Le Bal Masqué
Messa di Gloria
Come ye Sons of Art
Les Boreades (Boree)
Deux melodies hebraiques
Messa di Gloria
Four Mediaeval Lyrics
A Survivor from Warsaw
Paradies und die Peri
When Lilacs last in the Dooryard Bloomed
The Wanderer (written for DW-J)
Songs of the Fleet
Abraham and Isaac
Das Befreite Israel
A Child of our Time
The Torn Fields
A Sea Symphony
De Profundis (written for DW-J)
Cantata no. 2
Das Berliner Requiem